MPs demand investigation into unlawful police action
Comment Today’s revelation that the police raid on the offices of Damian Green, MP, had been carried out without a full warrant may yet return to haunt the police officers who authorised it.
Critics of the police are asking whether this was simple oversight, or part of a broader pattern of police setting out to ignore restraints placed by parliament on their behaviour.
A few cases reported on over the last few months give a flavour of what has been going on. In a raid on the premises of former computer forensics expert Jim Bates in September, police insisted on removing documents that both he and his solicitor claimed were directly related to an ongoing criminal trial, and therefore “privileged”.
Section 7.2 of PACE Code B, which governs police search and seizure, states: “No item may be seized which an officer has reasonable grounds for believing to be subject to legal privilege, as defined in PACE, section 10, other than under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, Part 2.”
Another seriously murky episode involved police bugging conversations between Tooting MP Sadiq Khan and one of his constituents in prison awaiting extradition for terror offences. Sir Christopher Rose investigated, and while he dished out a mild slap on the wrist to the police, he also left many questions unanswered. His report concluded, bizarrely, that the Wilson Doctrine, established in the 1970s, forbade the security services from bugging MPs where the authorisation of the Home Secretary was needed. However, it did not prohibit bugging of MPs where only the authorisation of senior police officers was required.